Cookbook Club: festive feast

Categories: Reflections and opinions

Angela Clutton reflects on the latest gathering of the Cookbook Club

The Borough Market Cookbook Club’s recent Festive Feast began with the most wonderful line of members extending out into the Market, all holding the dishes that they’d made and brought along to share with other members. Some of them were old Cookbook Club friends, welcomed with hugs and reminiscences of whichever event they’d been to earlier in the year. Others were newcomers who I hope soon felt included in the club’s embrace. All made me feel extraordinarily proud of our Cookbook Club’s ability to gather people together over shared food experiences.

Whatever the size of the Cookbook Club events—and this one in the Market Hall was attended by over 100 members, rather than the usual 15-person events up in The Cookhouse—there is always a warm welcome, and in this we were certainly helped along by the cups of mulled cider from The Cider House, which warmed our hands and our insides in equal measure, while carollers from Opera Holland Park warmed our festive spirits. Borough Market’s managing director Darren Henaghan gave us his own warm welcome and then we were onto the serious business of any Cookbook Club event: the food.

Cookbook Club festive feast

For the amped-up scale of the Festive Feast we had not one but four cookbooks: A Simply Delicious Christmas by Darina Allen, Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson, Do Ahead Christmas by James Ramsden and On The Side by Ed Smith. A menu of 15 dishes was chosen, and with 60-odd members cooking, that meant there would for the first time at Cookbook Club be members bringing the same dish as each other.

Gleamed like glory
It was terrific to see how cooks interpret or present the same dishes in different ways. It is hard to pull out particular ones as event favourites, but here are a few. The salmon en croute from James’s book was spectacular, even if I had to coerce a few members into doing it. I’m so glad I did, because as one of the guys who made it said to everyone, it is a dish whose impressive looks belie how straightforward it is to make. I know at least one member who was converted to doing it for her Christmas Day dinner. Nigella’s gleaming maple cheesecake was also declared an absolute hit and every version that came gleamed like glory.

There was another reason why this event was a little bit special—for the very first time, we had with us at the event a writer whose book was being cooked from: Ed Smith, who came along to talk about side dishes—his specialist subject—and answer our questions. One of my own contributions to the feast was the spiced roast carrots from On The Side, and these were gorgeous (a hit of slightly unexpected spicing through them)—which made it rather easier when it came to interviewing Ed, who was charm personified.

The food was partnered with wines from Borough Wines, which continues to be the most generous supporter of the Cookbook Club, as we drank both lovely organic Petit Brandeau Bordeaux red and Prince Tamas Dry Furmint white and listened to tips from Borough Wines’ Caroline Doyle on the best festive tipples.

Cookbook Club festive feast

Special community
We conducted our Cookbook Swap-Shop once again. It’s always fun to see who brings and takes what. (Whoever picked up a copy of Paula Wolfert’s Cooking of South-West France, I hope you enjoy it. That one was mine.)

And so, another Cookbook Club year came to its end. Everyone left sharing hugs and Christmas cooking tips—and sharing too a general feeling of warmth that comes from being part of a very special community.